Would Buddha Take Medication?

This has been a question I’ve been ruminating on for well over a year. I am curious if there are others in a similar spot: for me, my alphabet soup of diagnoses led me to spirituality as did working through various addictions. Yet, I’ve found myself in a conundrum of: can I be spiritual and take medicine? Would Buddha have popped pills?

I began studying Buddhism when I realized modern psychology is basically renamed Buddhism. I figured I’d just go to the source. Buddhism is not a religion; it is a philosophy. The focus is disciplining the mind.

When I started meditating, I lived in fear of my mind. It was noisy, chaotic, nasty, and full of should have/would have/could have. I had always felt there were at least 2 me’s in existence. The mask and the fucked up girl behind the mask. When I came to meditation, my life had become a confusing blur of lies. I didn’t know who I was anymore because I lost track of the lies and reality.

In this journey, I’ve flip flopped between believing I am seriously ill and in need of help and believing there is nothing wrong with me, it is society making me sick.

The psychosis I had over a year ago was the great leveler. In that, I am forced to accept both answers to every question. There are things I saw and experienced that are so real to me even today, I shudder at the memory. Yet, no one else saw or heard these things. No one saw melting faces, or had any reason to believe the weird weather was all my fault. I can’t find the things I read anymore, yet I swear I read them. It’s a case of accepting what is: I cannot explain this, but it happened all the same.

The harder thing to accept is this absolutely started with meditation. I experienced something that I can not describe in words, and from that point on, my life was turned upside down. I did believe I was God, so it could be full delusional grandeur and mania. I also believed I was here to help people, and that too could be mania. I don’t know. The problem and solution always is: I don’t know. I’ve researched it endlessly. Kundalini awakenings resonate with what happened to me. Jung’s concept of the shadow is almost a verbatim account of the 3 or so weeks I was in psychosis. Everything, and I mean everything I was afraid of, worried about, hiding away, etc. came into my reality. It was as if my life was a Stephen King novel.

I still struggle talking about this, because I couldn’t write out everything that happened in those weeks if I had a lifetime to type. If I can one day, it will give Mr. King a run for his money.

After begging to be taken to the mental hospital, knowing if I didn’t go, I was going to kill myself: I’m still left with fear. There’s still a part of me worried I was wrong. On bad days of depression, I can worry I should have killed myself then, because at the time, I was convinced someone was going to kill my kids if I didn’t kill myself. I’ve never been more terrified of my mind. Yet, I had two choices, I could either get back on good terms with myself, or spend the rest of my days terrified of me as I had been.

It took me a long time to come back to meditation. Buddhism obviously teaches meditation, but I learned in the mental hospital. No one told me about needing a guide or a teacher. No one told me what meditation could unlock. The experience I had is very similar to what has been described as Kundalini awakenings, and there are warnings abound that this should not be undertaken without serious inner work to clear your demons. Me? I was obsessed with meditating because it made me feel good. I didn’t really know chakras or anything spiritual then.

Was it spiritual? Was it psychological? Those questions have plagued me for so long.

In reality, the only thing that did happen is all my worst fears did come true, and all the things I repressed came to the surface. I was terrified I was crazy, so I went crazy. I lost my mind. It doesn’t matter what was real or not real, because in my world, it was all true. In others, it was not. For me, I created a self fulfilling prophecy. I believed I was crazy, so crazy is what I was.

This is the nature of life. My truth is something only I have. No one sees the sky the same way, and we have no way of proving or disproving it because we can’t describe blue. This leads me back to my question. The Buddha taught how to discipline the mind to alleviate suffering. I believe he used the complete power of his focus, by watching his thoughts and choosing where he gave his focus.

The Buddha believed all suffering exists in our minds. We cling to the past and reject change, we chase the future and lose the present. We create huge expectations to bring disappointment. We live in extremes and reject reality. I have to wonder, though, how would Buddha deal with now? Look at the world we are in. He’s long gone, and many follow his way, yet does it resonate now? Ancient wisdom is wise, but does it make sense in a culture so vastly different? Would he need Effexor and Latuda to stay centered?

The world is so obsessed with labels and words. Everything has to be specifically characterized and in a box – we’ve turned ourselves into nouns and forms of grammar instead of living breathing constantly changing verbs. God is now an iPhone, I think. It’s very different from a monastic lifestyle in India. In the present, I think suffering is caused by our obsession with the word “or”. My suffering with the puzzle of my psychosis is an easy example of this. The reality is “and” not “or”. That is to say, everything I experienced was completely real, completely caused by meditation, AND bipolar. Why must they be mutually exclusive? Does mania make it false? I used to believe mania made my happiness a lie, and I would use analysis to rob myself of joy with the fear of being crazy.

In reality, to me, bipolar is a description of a particular form of suffering: attachment versus non attachment. I flee the bad days and run for the good days. Medication has helped, meditation helped, yoga helped. I don’t fear my bad days, and I enjoy the good days as they last. Non attachment.

The psychosis is forcing me to accept “and” because it’s the only plausible answer. It’s all of the above. Yet, strikingly, this is precisely what the Buddha taught in non duality. Everything in this life is a process. Sadness is necessary so that happiness is experienced. Rainy days are needed to grow flowers in the sunshine. All of the cliches. But it is truly everything. All the mental anguish I go through attempting to pick a side can easily be avoided by accepting both and sticking to the middle. Any extreme is bad for our minds. Moderation is key in everything.

If you can think about the most painful situation in your life, I am willing to bet there is an “or” you are struggling with. “Did he cheat on me because I wasn’t good enough or is he a shitty person?” Both. It’s both. He believed you weren’t good enough and that does make him a shitty person. It can be everything because it’s all part of one unified process. It’s up to us to decide and move forward. Obsessing with the why, and trying to label it disconnects us from reality and keeps us in fear of the unknown. The reality is: it is all unknown and known. Every moment is exactly as it’s meant to be, and suffering comes from constant ruminating and questioning thoughts. The only reality is action.

The rising diagnoses seem to flag this problem. As we all attempt to force ourselves in one particular box at the loss of another, trying to encapsulate ourselves in neat words and labels, we are losing our minds. Our sanity. Our obsession with words and thinking is making us insane.

Isn’t it interesting that modern psychology and Buddhism are so closely aligned? Why is meditation so crucial? Why did meditation help me go crazy? I appreciate it now, because now I have the opposite – I know what it feels like to lose my mind. I no longer need to analyze myself for crazy indicators.

Meditation is the art of doing nothing, because we all do too much. It is rare we have that counter balance. Like pushing do not disturb on a cell phone, meditation can create the space for truth and reality to shine through. The truth that we always need both. We need activity and we need stillness. We cannot be healthy in any one or the other situation.

What is the truth? What is reality? I don’t know anymore. I think that’s the most truthful I can get. This journey started whether I wanted to or not, but I’ve been holding myself back by shifting my fear to medication. I finally connected I’ve been so stifled in everything because I’m terrified the medicine I am on is changing my brain.

When I started meditating, I saw colors. So many colors. It was like hanging out in a kaleidoscope. Now, I can tell you this is called a siddhi and means very little. Since I started the medicine, I stopped seeing colors. I’ve been worried about this for so long. Yet just last night, I asked that question: if Buddha was here now, would he take medicine to help with the journey?

The answer is: why do I care what Buddha would do? This is what I keep missing. At the end of the day, it’s only me that can move my feet on this path. Buddha may be a guide, Watts may be a guide, but I’m the only one who can choose. If I believe the medicine is hurting me, of course it will. Self fulfilling prophecies are reality. I take supplements and I take medicine. Why not both? Both help me. I have a stigma against myself with the medicine, and I’m tired of bullying me about it.

No sooner did I come to peace with this – after 1.5 years of struggling and fighting with this choice to medicate, I saw colors again. Brighter and more vivid then I remember before.

The Buddha taught me to stop fearing my mind by embracing the beauty of my mind. Meditation taught me how powerful all minds are. They can create beauty or suffering, depending on your focus. In each of us is this power to create or destroy our worlds. Most of us need to destroy before we learn to stop creating our destruction with the stories we tell ourselves.

Are you pondering similar questions? Let me know in comments, I’d love to pick some brains.

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Pay Attention

Do you know what your greatest gift, asset, tool, etc. is? Do you know the most powerful part of you? Do you know the one part of you, that if you use it wisely, it will change your life?

It is your focus.

Focus is something most of us struggle with immensely. The climbing rates of ADHD diagnosis in adults and children are testament to our struggles with the power of focus. Most of us pride ourselves on our abilities to multitask, but the reality is multitasking, over-committing, and generally being too busy is one of the biggest reasons we are miserable. (No shit Sherlock). The reason, though, isn’t because we are tired or stressed. It’s because we are maligning our greatest and most powerful gift.

Take a moment and think of people you deem wildly successful, the people you wonder how they did it, or what their secret is. There’s a common denominator: focus. Take a musician: they focused on their gift and passion until it became their reality. They don’t just work in music, they live music. They tour, write, perform, and embody music. How did they get there? “I never gave up, I never stopped believing in myself, I practiced every day…”

Most of us dismiss them as “lucky” or how we can’t possibly do that because “here in the real world…” However, we overlook the simple trick they use that can change everything for us: focus.

Do you fixate on things? Do you ever wonder why sometimes you just want to do the same thing, and other weeks it barely crosses your mind? Do you have interests that you want to incorporate in your life, but you can never seem to find the time?

These fixations are your inner compass, and they are a blessing, a gift, and guidance. Call it God, your higher self, intuition, the Holy Spirit, or channeling divinity. I don’t care. What your fixation or focus is trying to help you with is what you need to do to help yourself to be happy and fulfilled.

When we multitask and overwhelm ourselves, we erode our powerful focus, and like a muscle, lack of use creates weakness and lack of results. Our society loves to erode our focus. How many times do we check Facebook or even just our phones in a day? How many times can you say, “I just did one thing for like an hour.” When you go to work, how many things are you doing at once to be productive. Are you actually productive? How is your energy?

Have you ever watched a kid actually playing? Not video games, I’m talking driving a car on a floor, building a puzzle, or taking Barbie on a date with Ken? The outside world doesn’t exist to these kids. As a matter of fact, the kid doesn’t exist to the kid. There’s no mental observer, “I am making Barbie perfect, but up next I really must see about my muffins in the oven and good God that laundry!” It just doesn’t happen. They’re focused and immersed, which means they, and all their problems (kids have problems too) don’t exist.

What happens then? They’re happier! Have you ever dealt with an overstimulated kid? It’s fucking hell! My kids are constantly overstimulated, then they overstimulate me, and I want to go weep under a blanket for a month, pondering how to simultaneously be a great mom and hermit in a mountain, and if there’s a wawa located in any mountains.

Why wouldn’t we realize if kids can get overstimulated and turn into dickbags, most of the dickbags you encounter in your life (especially yourself!) are also overstimulated, unfocused, and outta their damn mind. We’re all chocolated-up toddlers demanding nap time 24/7!

We lack focus. Without focus, we’re generally ships without a compass lost in a world of circular thinking, rumination, habitual confused behavior, escapism, and in need of that nap.

Or, perhaps, more accurately: our focus is squandered in the wrong place. When you have that rare five minutes of quiet time, what do you focus on? Your blessings, or your problems? If you’re a resident of this planet, I bet problems are the more likely answer, although you’d try to caveat it with, but I’m really happy with my life, it’s just….

Focusing on something is transformative. In that, your focus takes you away from your idea of yourself, or your ego. We all have imaginary worlds we live in, where expectations run the show and expectation and reality are perpetually two ships passing in the night. When expectation and reality don’t align, frustration is a constant. When you focus on something and come away from your chattering monkey brain, suddenly shit makes more sense. Why? Because our brains can’t actually solve problems. Our ego, our idea of ourself, doesn’t do anything but take past data and attempt to answer a question. This just puts us in circles. This is what we all do when we have a problem, and it never actually solves our problems.

If anything, what if we create the outcome we don’t want? If you have a situation, and you’re focusing on the thing you don’t want to happen, how often does the thing you don’t want to happen come to fruition? When it does, do you feel a sick satisfaction that, although you’re miserable, at least you were prepared for it?

What if you made it happen though?

Your focus isn’t just what you’re doing, it’s what you’re creating in your life. Focus on peace, you will find peace. Focus on not wanting to fight about the dirty dishes, how many times did you end up fighting about dirty dishes? Focus on too much, and you end up confused and tired.

If you think about driving: if you focus on not hitting a pedestrian, you’ll find yourself inevitably steering away from the pedestrian you are somehow drifting towards. Where you set your focus is where you go, and focus doesn’t understand not. You’re staring at the pedestrian saying, “I don’t want to hit this 90 year old gentleman carrying his groceries”. Your focus says, “oh you wanna go to that guy? Got it!” Next thing you know, you’re jerking the wheel after startling someone’s grandpa. Google target fixation motorcycles and you can see this concept repeated in thousands of articles.

I think everyone has ADHD to varying degrees. ADHD is not a lack of focus, it is a lack of focusing on what someone else wants you to focus on. This is why school age children have these letters. The little bastards just don’t want to sit in a chair for 8 hours listening to someone talk about shit they’re not interested in. I don’t know any adults who struggle like that 🙄 Hell, this is a longer post: how well are you getting through it? Are you still reading? We all try to write less to keep our readers’ attentions because none of us have any!

ADHD, when framed properly, is a superpower, and we all have access to it. How many artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs have either ADHD or bipolar? How many stories have you heard where some wildly successful person sucked at school? Why is this? Their focus didn’t give a shit about anything but their focus, and they listened to it. An incredible musician can’t be incredible if they don’t play their instrument constantly. That’s great, because that was their focus. An inventor doesn’t give a shit about anything but making an iPhone. That’s great, because that was their focus.

We all have this to varying degrees because no brain is the same. Your focus could be as simple as wanting to drink a cup of tea and write in your journal. You put it off because your busy, and you end up grumpier than usual, because you didn’t do what you wanted to do. That urge did not come from your brain, either. We all know there’s a place in us that we can’t quite put into words, and when we don’t listen to it, it becomes a “man, I wish I had just….”

Focus is key. Our egos love to plan, dictate, tell us or shortcomings and problems. When we listen, we find lots more shortcomings and problems, and we create more of the same. Why? That’s where the power of our focus was squandered. If you do sit and journal with your tea, you may just find the answer to the question that’s been bugging you. If you go to that class you said you didn’t have time for, go to the gym, write the blog, etc: epiphanies can happen. You didn’t think of it, no amount of rumination did it. It wasn’t until you used your focus to not focus on creating problems did you, in fact, see through the problem.

Once I tapped into focusing on what I want versus what I didn’t want, life got better. Don’t get trapped by instant gratification. I didn’t practice yoga once and I am a billionaire with no cares in the world. My problems are exactly the same, I just see them differently. For me, focus and fixation come in approximately 1-2 week bursts. This week, my fixation has been practicing yoga nidra. This is something I had practiced when I started meditating, but didn’t know what it was called. It just made sense to lay down, close my eyes, and chill the fuck out. The week before was yoga. I pick one focus – whatever is pulling me the most – and I let that dictate my week. I’m busy, and I’m a mom. I don’t have tons of time. I keep my practices simple, I don’t let them become a guilt factor or burden. I just let it be my focus. Everything still gets done, but I redirect and focus on the fixation of the week when I start ruminating. Some weeks it’s cleaning my house, or writing, or journaling. I call my week whatever fixation I have, and it is my compass. I cut back on the shit I don’t need to make time for the shit I do. I can’t and won’t do everything I want or should do, so I pick one and I let my day focus on that. If it’s a yoga week, I plan my schedule around getting to yoga. If it’s a writing week, I wake up and write before I get distracted, etc.

What have you been wanting to do? What do you keep putting off? Where is your focus being squandered? If you had more time, what would you be doing? Start focusing on these questions, and I’ll bet things begin shifting. Keep focusing on the things you don’t want, and don’t be surprised when you told yourself so. Your focus will create your reality. Start using it to your benefit. What can you focus on today? Hit me up in the comments, this is my current fixation, and I want to talk more!

Up next, I’ll give you some more personal examples of my focus and fixation, a couple steps I took to get my focus back, and what changes I’ve observed since. Thanks for reading, and share the love if this was enjoyable, relevant, or semi coherent.

Happy Anniversary?

I haven’t shared this pic in a few years. Evan and I have been (in all technicality) married 12 years today. 3 years ago, but really probably 5, our marriage disintegrated. Or exploded. All of my worst nightmares and fears came alive. I didn’t want to be a single mom, I didn’t want to have a failed marriage, Christ, back then, I couldn’t fail period. I had to be perfect. In the last five years: I have been to the mental hospital 5 times, I cheated on my husband with a man I met in the first mental hospital, and our marriage became an exercise in masochism and sadism. Evan and I turned what once was overwhelming love – reading our posts for all our anniversaries could make me cry if I wanted to – into overwhelming hate. Our lives were the manifestation of misery: internally and externally. In the course of those years, in addition to my hospitalizations which were usually 2 or more weeks at a time with 3-6 months out of work for recovery, Evan lost his job for 3 months, I had to be out of work with no disability or pay of any kind, oh right and we have 3 kids. I don’t know how we survived the amount of stress we endured.

When the fight happened, I was relieved. Things were so bad, I was thrilled our marriage was over, but embarrassed about how it all went down. I was embarrassed about the affair, I was embarrassed about all my dirty little secrets not being kept anymore.

Sitting here now, I don’t have a single shit to give. Everything in those paragraphs are the past, and it is the vehicle that brought me to the present. In the present, I am back living with Evan and our family is together. I could say that’s a failure too: I “couldn’t handle” being a single mom, I went batshit crazy, etc. But failure is a beautiful part of life that puts you in the present. The present is always where we need to be, and it is always perfect.

Evan was there for me in the darkest nights of my soul. I was screaming about demons on my radio and people on the internet coming to kill me. He was there. He told me to come live with him when I realized I didn’t trust my own mind anymore, and I couldn’t afford my place while being out of work on disability.

How many couples could go through the hell our marriage went through? How many could come back to being each other’s best friend and support system? When we separated, once the emotions calmed down (and the court orders lifted – it was that bad) we promised each other we would figure this out. I couldn’t spend the rest of my life raising the kids and hating their daddy. I couldn’t conceive of holding on to anger that long. We promised each other we’d be friends for our own sanity and the kids. We didn’t want them seeing anymore fighting or anger. Our family suffered enough. We never divorced, we did all the custody and everything between us, and we let ourselves heal.

I never stopped loving Evan. He never stopped loving me. A year ago, we were terrified. I was moving back in and we were both scared it would be terrible. Things had gone so badly, what if….? I have a storage unit full of my stuff from Brookside, because what if I had to move out? A month ago, we started moving some of that into the house and getting rid of old stuff like our 12 year old couch. Because everything is great. A year ago, I couldn’t see me typing this. I couldnt see me happy and glad I moved back in. I couldn’t see Evan and I talking about a future or even an us.

Then I see my face in this picture. I see how blue my eyes are. I know how nervous I was to be getting married, I was 5 months pregnant with Tyler. This is my favorite picture of me. This was the happiest day of my life, and I was marrying my best friend. One thing the last 12 years has taught me is an expectation is a built in disappointment and this can work both ways. I expected my marriage to fail, because I focused on the negative. I expected my life to go to hell, because I fought everything I am, because I hated myself.

The girl in this picture is beautiful, but she wasn’t actually happy. Her insides were tortured, her mind was tortured. She loved Evan a lot, but she also thought Evan was going to make her happy. The woman typing this exceedingly long memoir is beautiful inside and out, she still loves Evan, and she knows the only person who can make her happy is herself. So her smiles are bigger, her words are truthful, fearless, and without judgement. She doesn’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks about her, because she used to think a lot worse, and she made her life a living hell hidden behind masks and lies.

12 years ago, I married my best friend. It was the best decision I ever made. Today, I am raising my kids with my best friend, and through the insanity of this journey, I have found my other best friend: me. There are no words to express my love and gratitude for this life. It’s beyond my expectations – thank God. A lot has changed in 12 years, but the one constant has been love – even if sometimes it was standing upside down as hate.

First World Problems

With this Nor’easter supposedly coming through, I’m really excited to get gardening. I love the site of fresh green shoots of hyacinths bedazzled with old snow. All this talk of freezing rain and heavy snow has me thinking of getting my hands muddy.

There is a dark cloud looming over these picturesque visions. I am completely out of eggs and almost out of milk. This is a Pennsylvanian’s worst nightmare. A French toast-less blizzard.

For me, I’m generally irritated because I WILL go buy milk and eggs before a storm because my coffee don’t get drank without milk, and snow doesn’t fall without baking cookies. These are priorities!

I’m a really bizarre baker – in that I only bake in inclement weather. Is it your birthday? Enjoy this delicious store bought cake. Is it a polite and classy gesture required event? Entemann’s raspberry crumb danish twist thing may not say much, but it tastes of what I’d imagine the nectar of the gods to be. Is hurricane Sandy destroying the East Coast? Well you better believe Zucchini Bread, Pumpkin Zucchini Bread, Banana bread and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are coming out of my kitchen! This storm has a 100% chance of sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies if I can survive the dairy aisle gauntlet unscathed.

It’s inevitable. I cannot explain the compulsion, nor do I mind stuffing my face with chocolate chip cookies while I get snowed in. It’s genius, if you ask me. It’s terrible, if you ask my pants. (That’s a lie, my pajamas love me no matter how many cookies I eat)

Now, I did make a box batch of brownies for my dad’s birthday on Friday and I attempted to get classy and make ganache. I screwed up by not allowing enough time to chill the ganache, and by attempting to be classy on a sunny day. (I only make completely homemade brownies during blizzards, duh) I was also in the middle of making corned beef with cabbage and potatoes as well as sauerkraut in another pot. I wanted my dad to have a Reuben or corned beef and cabbage for his birthday.

As the brownies weren’t coming out right, I was simultaneously convinced my corned beef was tough and my brownies were burnt. I was so irritated with myself, and felt like a completely useless asshat. BUT, then I reminded myself it is actually the thought that counts and maybe I should chill along with the ganache. (Literally my new favorite word)

Once I chilled out (unlike my ganache), I went to my parents and my dad told me my corned beef was awesome. The next day, I ate a brownie and it was the best ganache I have ever had. I literally concocted two abysmal failures in my brain. Neither actually happened or existed. Aww, look how metaphorical cooking can be!

I stopped the drama by making myself laugh at myself. My mom and I tried to bake a cake for my dad forever ago. It was this hamburger cake. It was the most depressing impersonation of a hamburger. I’m talking worse than McDonald’s. It tasted like sugar died. I was ranting to my mom about my illusory failed meals saying my dad choked down our hamburger cake he can choke down my corned beef. It was enough of a chuckle to make me stop the stories.

As the first day of spring approaches, with the traditional raging nor’easter, I’ll hear the chirping birds of wind, see the green tufts of snow, feel the warm kiss of freezing rain, and I will be celebrating new beginnings. New beginnings always start at the end. Now that winter is ending, I’ll hopefully not lose power and bake those cookies. Hell, I’ve gotten better at baking thanks to Pennsylvania’s bizarre weather and my compulsively storm infused sweet tooth. I’ve also gotten better at laughing through the storms – literal or metaphorical.

I had always thought my problems were menial in the face of others, but then I realized my first world problems would have been third world problems to Siddhartha Gautama, a former prince turned Buddha. A man who was waited on hand and foot taught of suffering, because suffering is a gift we all give each other regardless of demographic or storm baking proclivities

So….I just cannot believe I have to go to the store tomorrow. But I appreciate that I can. #blessed

Gratitude is not an attitude

This morning’s focus at yoga was gratitude. If the massive nor’easter hitting me in PA and surrounding states hasn’t been a huge call for gratitude for all of us; I don’t know what could. I’m so thankful for the teachers at my kids school, all schools that stayed with the kids and obviously put their own safety at risk with driving to make sure everyone was safe. I cannot imagine the fear and anxiety for the bus drivers with loads of (I’m sure noisy) kids driving in this mess and getting them all home safely. There were so many cars abandoned, so many without power, some were stuck in their cars for hours. I’m thankful for the people out in this to restore power. I’m thankful for the doctors and nurses and anyone who had to work regardless of the weather that make our lives what they are. Most of all,I am thankful my family is warm, safe, snuggled up and snoozing while I am up late listening to the wind sing. I’m grateful for the eerie quiet with the roaring wind. It’s breathtaking.

In all of this, we can see a call for annoyance or one for gratitude. In gratitude, we can start to see reality as opposed to the illusions we live under in our ego mind. However, you must consistently apply gratitude in all situations, so It becomes second nature. But really, nature. We were all made to enjoy this world and live it and we often focus on the negative aspects of life. I know I have often struggled. Like every skill or practice, you need to retrain your brain. With consistency and discipline to always seek gratitude regardless of your externals.

My biggest saving grace from the mental hospital was starting to journal again and writing at least 3 gratitudes a day. It became 3 pages and I started feeling huge shifts. It’s an easy practice to forget though. This is why yoga helps us all find our true joy and happiness. It teaches us to slow down and breathe. Feel how much you can do when you breathe. Feel how much you can do in stillness. Accept your mind. Be present, so you can see all the gifts, blessings…. in our lives every day. If you practice this daily, this is an amazing first step in quieting your ego to see your true authentic self. It is a key factor in staying in the present. It reduces anxiety. This is an amazing, low energy/low key way to help starting climbing out of the next unexpected sinkhole or life. I went from wishing for my car to veer into a telephone pole to writing and journaling consistently. This is all a journey of learning.

As the storm was ramping up, I was lying in savasana allowing all I am thankful for to surface. Me. My kids. Evan. Shanteel. All of my new friends and family. The list was so big immediately I started crying. A year ago, and really most of my life, I felt like a dead girl walking. Now, I’m smiling at the wind, grateful I have so many blankets. Grateful I can write this for anyone who likes my writing. Grateful I can write

In the storms of our lives, external and internal, we are always the eye of the storm. We are always the calm in the storm. The best way to see that is to stay thank you for reminding me I am stronger than I think I am and more importantly, thank you for for reminding me how to love.

Gratitude is not an attitude, it’s a way of life.

If you want to stop focusing on your ego, start saying thank you and see how much we all truly need one another to survive. We aren’t islands.

Namaste everyone. Hope you are all warm and safe. So thankful for you all.

These two songs nail it 😊

https://youtu.be/u05S9cq2bLY

Successfully Failing at Life

When you finally sit down to write and your laptop won’t boot…I guess you start writing a post on your phone because impatient should be your middle name.

Yesterday, I was watching a Netflix documentary – On Yoga: An Architecture of Peace. This rattled me to my core: “…all of our fears ultimately are a fear of death…I think the purpose of life is learning to accept death…”

It’s interesting because the thing I kept wanting to write (but kept opting to allow OCD to run me by the nose and clean my house instead – seriously, if you wonder why I barely write, I’m cleaning…just call me the Scrubbing Buddha or perhaps Sweeping Buddha) was about failure. Sitting in my messy living room, this concept feels pretty all consuming.

I am in the midst of a complete internal tug of war. The cleaning I mentioned is how I’ve spent months of my life since moving back in with my ex. I used to write for hours and hours daily, and now I’m trying to get some kind of consistency beyond “I think I wrote something a week ago”. When I cannot calm down, I clean. My brain likes order and neatness, otherwise my anxiety goes haywire and I tend to get obsessed with people, memories, thoughts, or whatever.

I talked through this all will my psychiatrist and came to realize this is my mania. Mania has always been described to me as being happy and thinking you are God. When I described myself as feeling as though I’m in a hamster wheel in hell, my psych explained this is my mania. I cried a lot after that session. Mania is not necessarily happy. Mania can also be described as “extreme restlessness” and for me, it triggers OCD. I don’t check the oven. I clean and ruminate, AKA think the same thoughts over and over. Alternatively, I obsess about people – my kids, myself, my exes, whatever.

My moods swing from hamster wheel in hell to “I think I bathed a few days ago. I just need to go back to bed, really”. Intermittently, I’ll have “good” days where I’m not too much one way or the other. More often, I have a combination of a severely depressed hamster in hell. That whole cleaning thing? I am a mom of three kids. Cleaning with 3 kids is akin to building a sandcastle next to a tsunami and telling yourself it will stay just so.

Buddha speaks of impermanence. Every parent knows impermanence so well. It’s that kitchen you cleaned and mopped that now has some form of liquid sugar spilled all over the floor or the sparkling toilet covered in pee thanks to a small child who apparently thinks peeing with their eyes closed is a good idea.

Buddha says the suffering comes from clinging to that which will always change. After cleaning for 6 hours straight just to clean up dinner, I get it. I stopped bemoaning that my house is only clean if no one is home, and hell, my moods change faster than songs on the radio. I wouldn’t know stability if it smacked me in the face. I’ve said for a long time: Motherhood is a crash course in Buddhism. Nothing shows the constant nature of change like looking at your 11 year old who you swear was an infant a couple days ago.

I’ve accepted it all as best I can. I’m human. I am going to get pissed off when I feel like all my efforts are wasted even if I understand the truth is change is happening constantly. My only offense and defense in this is acceptance and awareness. In the time I wrote this, I’ve changed. Cells died or divided, thoughts have come and gone, and I’ve calmed down slightly by typing. I know my obituary is going to say nothing about my immaculate countertops, but sometimes I can’t stop scrubbing them. I am aware of my behavior, but instead of being attached to the outcome, I use it as a form of meditation, so I accept it. “It is what it is” is my mantra.

This is life and it’s what we all struggle with. As much as anyone says they want to change something, their deepest struggle is against changing it…and of course: failure. Suffering comes from fear and fear is often the fear of change. Yet, when you see life is constantly changing, you can see your fear is holding you back from living.

Our egos developed to keep us alive. The notion of “I” is attached to your body, your life, and all that you perceive in your realm of being. When we die, our ego ceases to exist as does our bodies. Naturally, our egos fear change and fear failure.

The Buddha spoke of non-duality. That there is no good or bad, everything “just is”. Our egos are our thinking mind. In our thinking mind, we need judgement and labels. A plant is a plant, that person smells badly, and my feet itch. When we were fighting to survive, these judgements and labels kept us alive. That thing will eat me, that plant will kill me, run.

The thinking mind is always there, and many of us are led by the nose by our thinking mind. If you think I sound ludicrous for spending 8 months cleaning all day every day, (it’s cool, I do too) muse on how much of your life is spent thinking. Thinking, labeling, and judging are parts of our life and necessary. If you are driving and think “I should not run over that pedestrian” and slow down, this is helpful. If you are sitting on your couch thinking you are a failure, this is not.

We have gotten so lost in our thinking minds, we have lost connection with what words actually mean. We rely so heavily on connotation, we have lost sight of the power of our words, actions, and thoughts. The best moments and worst moments of your life are likely inadequately described by words. “Holding my child in my arms for the first time was too beautiful for words” right? What words can you use to describe a sunset adequately? What words can you use to describe how you felt when your lover kissed you for the first time?

Our words truly only have the power we give to them. Calling someone a complete and total douche canoe, on the surface, makes little sense, yet I bet you’d not feel happy if I called you one. This is true of everything in life. Everything only has the power we give it. This is the crux of non duality. Something is only bad if we label it as such and our efforts to pursue or avoid it are the root of suffering. Douche canoe has no meaning beyond what you apply to it.

Did you know the actual definition of failure is: lack of success or the omission of an expected outcome?

To the first definition, the only person who can define success is you. To the second: in this life, we have only one expected outcome. Death. By that understanding, every inhalation and exhalation, you successfully fail. Your life is one successive failure to achieve the only expected outcome you truly have: death. Ultimately, you will succeed by dying. Kinda fucked up to think about it that way right? Yet how much of your life has been labeled with that word?

How can I say the only person who determines success is you? You could argue “if I don’t get my work done, my boss will fire me, he determines the success there.” Yet, by choosing not to do your work, you chose not to be successful, so you did that. Beyond that, we’ve all been told enough times that we learn more from our mistakes/failings than our achievements. So if you get fired, you got a lesson, so there is a success.

“Failure is not an option” – well, death is always an option, but would trying whatever has been pulling at your soul kill you? I opt to clean instead of write because I’m terrified of showing the world how absolutely batshit crazy I am (again). Yet the Buddha has taught me to bring the inside out. That happiness is in being. It can truly be as simple as speaking your mind. “Attachment is the root of all suffering”-Buddha. My attachment to my suffering is keeping me suffering, which means I just need to stop being attached to…me. I’m no one. Me and all my problems have an expiration date. In enough time, the kitchen I scrub won’t exist. I’m not my ego, I could not tell you who I am, but no matter what happens, I am happy, because it is my nature. I just like to think I’m not.

All of this is the only way I stay sane while being a depressed hamster in hell. I have spent so much of my life trying to change, be better, and so forth. Sitting here not cleaning and writing in my “old house” with my ex, I feel like the worlds biggest failure. I would have never expected my life to turn out as it has. I’m not even working right now. There are so many things I can label as a failure. Unlike before, I am glad. As long as I am failing, I’m living. As long as I am living, I am changing. By accepting change, I can be happy no matter what, because I understand my immaculate kitchen will never last. Nor will the bad day. Nor will the good day. No amount of thinking will change that. Without thinking about it all, I have more energy to do the things I care about like impatiently writing all of this on my phone. The true self typing this is inspired, even if my ego is twitching to clean…(Sorry for typos, shitty formatting, etc!)

I hope you all are successful failures today!

A Hole Inside the Whole

There was a time

When I Love You

Meant everything

To me

In the blue ocean,

Of your perfect eyes

I drowned in

Salty sweet tears

I felt my heart

Beat the first time

When us became I

I felt my breath

In wasted winds

Of words

With no follow through

How could I know

My I Love You

Came with a closed fist?

Choking and punching

While my razor tongue

Licks your wrist

How can I say

I’m sorry to you

When I chewed off my tongue

In the teeth of my lies

My lips have dissolved

In acidic kisses

Of unrequited wishes

Lost in projection

A delusional reflection

Of the thoughts of a mind

A vacuous Black Hole

You were the light

Shining the darkness

In the shadows of my soul

You were the mirror

I shattered again

In the endless blow by blow

You’ve been deaf

To my cries

As I was blind

In your eyes

You’ve become a frozen wall

Of snow

But in the blackness

The tundra in I

I saw the rainbow

Maybe I Love You

Was my closed fist

Hiding a universe

In a heart

Cracked in gold

In a new mirror

I stare in my blue ocean

My perfect eyes

Saying no thing

To no one

My tongue caresses

new lips of roses

With no change

Except the whole

Speaking in Silence

When you are silent, It speaks ~Zen Poem

There are many misconceptions surrounding meditation. From my observations, people either envision Buddha meditating or they see meditation as a way of ___ing. Either is misleading.

To those envisioning Buddha: they place expectations on themselves of spiritual disciplines. Lotus postures, ascetic limitation, yoga, and so forth. Often the cart gets placed before the horse. Buddha himself said to expect nothing, yet we all tend to place the highest expectations on ourselves and our lives.

To those __ing: meditation is the opposite of any -ing. What I mean when I say that is, it is non-action. If you are trying to meditate, you are not meditating. That has been my rule of thumb since day 1. If you seek anything from meditation, you will find disappointment. An expectation is a built-in disappointment. That’s often attributed to Buddha, but it’s an AA saying. I’m pretty sure Buddha would dig it, though. With meditation being taught as a psychological “coping” skill, you are putting legs on a snake and slowing down. Inherently, meditation starts with “Am I calm yet? Am I less depressed yet?”

Am I Zen Yet?

Expectations are thoughts. Thoughts are us talking to ourselves. When I started my journey into meditation, I had a basic understanding that I was to “silence my mind”. As I tried to silence my mind, it got much noisier. In place of my usual chatter, I had new thoughts of me trying to get me to quiet down. Guided meditation helped me re-direct to my breath, and I will share some below. However, I will strongly caveat to use these sparingly. I will always emphasize in my writing that you are your own guru, teacher, master, etc. There is but one guide in meditation, and it is your breath.

I call my breath my anchor when I meditate. Thoughts will always arise. You are presented with a choice – in meditation and outside of meditation – you can think your thought and chase it with more, or you can allow it to pass. An example: A thought “I need to do the laundry” can be acknowledged and dismissed and you return to what you are doing. Alternatively, “I need to do the laundry, I forgot to get detergent at the store, I can’t believe I did that again, I forgot onions too, the pot pie you made last night sucked, you still didn’t do the dishes….”

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Meditation is not sitting in lotus posture with your hands in mudra alone. I am meditating as I type these words, and if you are reading these words, you are meditating as well. It is when you are engrossed in your thoughts – talking to yourself – that you are not meditating. When The Buddha tells us to Expect Nothing, he is telling us to stop placing these standards and ideals of the mind on ourselves. Your very inhalation and exhalation are all you need in this moment. How many disappointments have you created in your life by the very nature of your thoughts? You expected it to be one way, and it went another? I expected meditation to do xyz, and reality taught me. Meditation is nothing. It’s the only -ing in meditation.

Can I shut up so I can hear?

As I said, when I began meditating, I found so much noise. If I were to describe my mind like water, it was wave after wave of thoughts, and in trying to think away my thoughts, I created more. To type it out, hopefully, displays the irrationality of it. Prior to meditating, I never noticed how noisy my mind was because I never noticed how noisy the world was. Your mind is a reflection of your environment. You look outside from the inside, naturally what is inside is what is outside.

People are constantly talking, music is constantly playing, TV, etc. There is so much commotion in our world. Of course, it is difficult to find stillness and quiet. This is where the breath is your only anchor, much like the waves of that same ocean. Your thoughts will rise and fall like waves, rocked by your breath. As you breathe, your thoughts will naturally come to a quieter state. You cannot think them quieter, or you create new waves. The only way to create fewer waves of water is to sit and wait.

The point in being told to quiet your mind is to show you the futility of it. Most get frustrated and give up because they are doing something or they are trying to be like Buddha. In either, they’re not being themselves. They are being bound in expectation as opposed to nothing.

Meditation is a connection to yourself, your true self, free of the masks you wear in society. You cannot force a connection, nor can you think a connection. The connection comes from communication.

How do you talk to yourself?

Thinking is talking to yourself. I began to best understand this as I understood Rumination. Rumination is when you think or say the same thing over and over. I am ___, I can’t believe I ____, I should be____. These are all statements. This is not a conversation, nor is it communication. Contemplation, on the other hand, is when you ask questions. If you go through life ruminating – making statements, no one can answer the questions you are not asking. If you are living life adhering to expectations, your tunnel vision blocks you from seeking answers to questions you did not know you asked. Contemplation is a form of meditation. As you talk to yourself less, you allow more quiet, which allows space for communication and connection.

In the business (busy-ness?) of life, quiet is tough to find. I found myself afraid of it. I used the guided meditations, music, etc. at first in an attempt to drown out the noise of my mind. Yet, there is a problem too. If I’m trying to connect with myself, I can’t drown myself out. I must connect with all – good, bad, and in between. I realized, too, I use music, talking, etc. to drown out my thoughts, and make it harder for people to connect with me. It’s a form of self-preservation. If I am always talking, I don’t have to listen. I don’t have to hear what people think of me because the truth is I project an air of confidence to hide my terror. My terror that everyone knows I am as crazy as I think I am.

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I began meditating because I wanted to learn how to quiet my mind. I was so tired of how noisy my brain was. I knew I thought about everything too much. I knew I was thinking myself out of reality. Before I studied Buddhism, Jung, or anyone, I knew something was wrong with me because I could not be happy. I didn’t know what happiness was. I knew deeply that happiness was nothing I could possess, nothing I could put an ‘s, nothing I could put into words, but I knew it was something that I was not choosing for myself. I knew it started in my mind, but what I didn’t know was that my mind and the world are very much the same, when you don’t think about it.

Once I stopped talking to myself so much, I found silence. In the silence, I found myself.

Are you ruminating or contemplating? 

This is a topic I will be developing much further, so stay tuned.

Earlier posts:

Please re-blog if you enjoyed, and I will return the favor, if I enjoy your writing.  Thank you so much for your time in reading! Thank you for likes, comments, and following!

Raise or Raze?

When I became a mom, like most moms, I thought my job was to raise my kids. I became obsessed with being a great Mom. In truth, I became obsessed with making sure everyone saw me as a great mom – including my kids and my husband. Internally, I saw myself as a fuck up, failure, and fraud. I attempted to be a perfect mom, to hide my Imposter Syndrome.

Being-okay-with-imposter

In raising my children, I razed myself.

raze
rāz/ verb
1. completely destroy
There are many relationships that can be described in those 7 words. The problem is, the wrong raise is used in the second half of the sentence. One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is we can make another person happy. Our spouse, children, random person on the street, and so forth. We cannot make anyone but ourselves happy. As a parent, you care for and provide for your children, but we cannot make them happy any more than we can make them breathe.
I have proved this to myself every Christmas morning, or even every time I’ve devoted any amount of time cooking. For one, if I place an expectation, I’ve immediately placed a disappointment. No reality will ever align with what I’ve created in my mind. Since it doesn’t match, I will be disappointed as opposed to surprised. For another, my child (spouse, etc.) will choose what they do with my gift/meal/expression/words.
Happiness is a choice we each make for ourselves.
As every mom knows, your child’s likelihood of eating is inversely proportional to the amount of time you spent cooking. Chicken nuggets are the nectar of the gods versus your home cooked roasted chicken is “This again?”
That understanding did not exist years ago. The world itself rested on my shoulder. I had to make everyone happy (except myself, of course). I looked to everyone else to make me happy. No one was making me happy. There were happy moments and happy times, but it felt fleeting. I realize now they were moods and moments.
True happiness is a state of being.
It is a perspective and a constant choice.
In my desperate attempts to make everyone else happy, I ran myself ragged. I worked 50-80 hour weeks because I wanted to make enough money to buy a bigger house. When I wasn’t working, I was assuaging my working mom guilt by doing fun and exciting activities for the kids since I barely saw them. I don’t want to go into the play by play, but at the height (or bottom, I suppose), I was going to the gym for 1-2 hours, while actively bingeing and purging almost everything I ate. After my marriage disintegrated, when the kids were with their dad, much of the same commenced, except I’d add liquor/beer/sex to the fire. I was on a mission to destroy myself.
Then, one fateful day, I vomited at a bar when I was out to dinner with a friend. My hair had been falling out for a few weeks, but I was blaming it on everything but the truth. I saw blood in my vomit. I realized I was actively killing myself. For all the suicidality/intrusive thoughts/etc. that come with depression and the alphabet soup of my mind, there it was: I was killing myself. I couldn’t deny it any longer. The clock was ticking. I was going to leave my children motherless if I did not get my act together. Or, really, if I did not drop the act.
I was a fraud. I wasn’t happy. I was miserable. Not even my kids could make me happy. If anything, I was parenting them in fear of them becoming me. Talk about do as I say, not as I do. “Children, you can be and do anything you like, just for the love of god, don’t be me!” is what I would say without saying. Children learn by example, not words. Children are wise sponges. The day after I saw blood in my vomit, I offhandedly told my daughter we were going to grab food because I was hungry, and I saw relief on her face. Imposter Syndrome, indeed.
I projected my need and desire for happiness onto everyone because projection is what everyone does. All parents project their un-reconciled crap onto their kids. We can either raise or raze our kids, as well. If you are not a parent, don’t space out, because you can think of your inner child. You do not even have to have trauma: you could have the best childhood in history. We all have unreconciled crap projected on us. Life is the sum of happiness and trauma when you think about it. One second, you are happily chilling in the amniotic sac in your mother’s womb. The next, you are cold, screaming, and getting smacked by a doctor. Our minds conduct janitorial services and clean away memories of trauma, we forget, we repress, and we project.
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Our parents had things they wanted to do and be, they had fears, etc. and all of that was projected on us as kids. You can see that nowadays in helicopter parents. Those parents are so afraid for their children, they don’t let their children be children. Inside all of us as adults, our inner children wait to be parented. My life as an imposter was really an inner child throwing one raging tantrum of repressed emotion, fear, and pain.
As children, we were much wiser in many ways then we are as adults. The world makes us forget simplicity. A kid is happy playing with a box, as many frustrated parents can laugh at the discarded flashy toy off to the side. A kid greets each day as a new adventure, forgetful of yesterday and tomorrow. A kid eagerly learns and takes in the world with curiosity and minimal fear. Adults teach the kids the fears and anxiety by example and projection.
None of this is typically intentional. If anything, most parents have the best of intentions! The exceptions would be childhood abuse, paedophilia, and horrible things like this which create traumas that no child should endure which create adults with pain that is indescribable. If the adult child has children, they tend to repeat the cycles of abuse, and this is a viciously complex issue. At the same time, in these cases, as with any psychological condition: you are often taught to re-parent your inner child. Other terms: Core wounds and core beliefs, Mother/Father Wound, Fixation…You begin to see patterns in relationship types: co-dependency, enabling, narcissistic, toxic, and so forth.
Unhappiness is the result of happiness sought outside of self.
Parents can have co-dependent and toxic relationships with their children. I have seen many mothers who have lost their identity to their children. They are only ___’s mom now. They have no interests outside their children. Their happiness is dependent on their child’s happiness and they believe they are the purveyors of that happiness. Unfortunately, when their children begin developing their own identity and independence, these possessed nouns are lost, because who are they? What do they do with their time?
As a possessed noun, I could not contend with my guilt over my co-dependent, toxic marriage ending, my guilt in turning my kids into “statistical broken home kids” and feeling like a complete and utter failure. Naturally, I drank away my sorrows and did everything I could to escape them. Then I saw I was dying, and I realized I better start living. I started writing, I started learning who I was. I started doing the things I loved doing when I was a kid – writing, collecting crystals, meditating, reading, listening to music, etc. I began finding a life outside of my children, and I saw the reality that my children were perfectly happy whether or not I was around. The sun still rose and set without me. It was magical.
I am all that I am. There is no more imposter because I look in the mirror and I love the woman who stares back at me. I peer out in this world no longer afraid of exposition.  Fortunately, I razed myself and destroyed a life that was destroying me.
Occam’s razor (Razor, same root as Raze) keeps all of this rather tidy: the simplest solution is usually best. Why spend all this time hiding lies, when you can be authentic? Why spend all this time trying to make everyone else happy, when I can choose happiness? I can smile my real smile, and let my example teach my children. They can choose for themselves from there; same for anyone else who crosses my path.
Which raise do you use with yourself and others?
Thank you for reading, sharing, comments, likes, and follows!!! I’m having so much fun putting these concepts together, and I generally hope this is thought provoking 🙂 I’m on Facebook & Twitter – Social Media Links on my page…Still getting everything set up!!